Sunday, March 30, 2008

We Have A Winner!!!

Well, the day has come for me to reveal the results of the cupcake challenge! For those of you reading this blog for the first time, I previously posted about my frustration with my M&P soap turning brown when I use fragrances with a high vanilla content. I decided to conduct a little experiment using a vanilla stabilizing additive, a vanilla-stabilizing M&P soap, and nothing at all. Well, we have a winner, and while I'm a little surprised, I'm not surprised at all. The winner of the cupcake soap challenge is.........................the cupcake soap with the vanilla stabilizer added. Thanks Anne-Marie. You were right, but I somehow knew you would be (wink.)

I admittedly used 2 minute cubes (in comparison to the rest of the soap) of white M&P with no additives in the vanilla-stabilizing soap because it was just too transparent for what I was trying to achieve. That could have played a roll in the soap slightly darkening. The plain soap has darkened considerably. It's almost taken on a grayish hue. It's still perfectly good soap, but it's just not as pleasing to the eye as the original. The soap with the vanilla stabilizer added still looks yellow and beautiful after 3 days. I'm most pleased. I'll be using this method from now on. I can still use the vanilla-stabilizing soap for other projects, but just not this one.


Friday, March 28, 2008

How To Line A Wooden Soap Mold

I love to make cold process soap, but I hate lining my molds because I can never get the corners quite right. The soap usually ends up seeping out of the cracks. Don'tcha just hate that or is it just me? Well, I've been scouring the web for some simple instruction, and I found one on YouTube that looks like it might be worth a shot. Check it out!

ps-I think I love the science of cold process soap-making more than the actual soap-making process because I never know how a batch is going to turn out. It's usually a 50/50 chance with me. Thank goodness for M&P soap!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Always Read The Labels!!!!

I'm ashamed at my recent blunder. I bought this whole apple mold with the intention of making these cute votives. They were so cute, in fact, that I decided to make soaps with them as well. That's all well and good, BUT, not all fragrances are skin-safe. I posted these cute little soaps in my Etsy shop last week and had to remove them a day later. Why? Because my pressed ass did not read the warning on the bottle of the Red Delicious scent I bought from Candles and Supplies. It clearly says not soap and body safe, yet I used it in my soap creation. Thank God nobody bought one of these, or I'd have been in deep doo-doo! I'm still gonna turn these into little apple votives though. I know a few school teachers who would get a kick out of these!

Lesson to self and to others: Always read the labels!

Does It Really Do That????

To my (2) loyal readers, I'm sorry that I haven't posted in a week, but I have a lot going on. Anyway, I've resolved to keep this blog strictly about candle and soap making. No more rants. No more random ridiculousness unless it has to do with soaps and/or candles. With that being said, I have a new soap base that I'm trying out for my favorite specialty soap: Cupcake Soaps. While I love making them and bathing with them, I'm not crazy about the fact that my delicious creations turn brown after 2-3 days. "Why?" Is the soap base rancid or old? Nope. It's the vanilla content. My scent-d'jour, Cupcake, from one of my favorite suppliers Wholesale Supplies Plus, contains 14% vanilla. Holy cow! Now wonder my cupcakes look like doo-doo after a few days. It's starting to affect my sales, and I've got to do something quick. To combat this dilemma, I've invested, ok bought, two new products that I'm hoping will be the cure-all to my doo-doo soap blues.

The first product I bought is a vanilla-stabilizing M&P base from Natures Garden. This base is made with 99.5% glycerin and deodorized, double-distilled coconut oil, and Vitamin E. They actually had me at $4.25 for two pounds, but I'll take the double-distilled coconut oil. Anyhoo, I'm a little pissed at myself for buying four 2-lb slabs of this base because one, I've never tried it, and two, it's transparent (my fault for not reading the descriptions carefully.) I put a few chunks in my Pyrex cup and zap it in my microwave for about a minute, and it's now a yellow liquid. I'm slightly panicking at this point because I don't want a translucent cupcake soap, so I'm fully disclosing now that I've added a few small cubes of cocoa butter M&P soap from one of my other fave suppliers Candles and Supplies. Even after that, the soap is still too clear, but I proceed with what I have. The good news is I don't have to color this soap because it's already a light yellow. After I release the soap from my mold, I hook up some "icing" to pour over the soap. It too is also translucent. I'm not happy folks. Let's move on, shall we?

The second product I bought was from Wholesale Supplies Plus. It's a liquid additive actually called Vanilla Stabilizer. I was reading the ingredients list, and guess what it contains? Vitamin E! You simply add a tablespoon for every pound of soap. Since I'm only making one cupcake for now, I added about 2 teaspoons to 8 oz of soap. To that, I added a tablespoon of Cupcake fragrance. Yeah, yeah, it's a lot of fragrance, but I love this scent, what can I say. It literally fills my apartment with the scent of freshly-baked cupcakes. I color the soap with a tiny drop of yellow dye. My icing is used with the same soap base only I added a tiny drop of red and came out with this pinky-peach color.

Now for the test: I present 3 cupcakes: one using the vanilla-stable soap base, one using the vanilla stabilizing additive, and one using nothing. I'll post an update on Saturday to show how these soaps turned out. The soap on the left is the pre-made base. The soap on the right is my beloved cocoa butter M&P with no additives, and the soap in the back is the cocoa butter M&P with the the vanilla stabilizer added. I'm dying with anticipation to see how these turn out!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

MapQuest Sucks!

Ok, I just gotta vent: MAPQUEST SUCKS!!! I had to pick up a package from UPS today, and I printed the directions off you-know-who so I could go straight there from work. Figuring it was only a 15 minute drive, I'm saying to myself "Cool!!!." So the directions tell me to turn left on Sweitzer Lane which I do, and guess what? I come to a f*cking dead end! I was so pissed. I had to bust a U to get back on the main road so I decide to keep straight on Sweitzer, and lo and behold, I find the friggin UPS office-I guess seeing all those huge brown trucks coming toward me was a dead giveaway. So, MapQuest, you are wrong! You make a right onto Sweitzer from 198, not a left, when travelling East. Yeah, yeah, they print a disclaimer, but dammit, I expect not to get lost when following directions. Ok, I feel somewhat better. I got my vanilla-stable M&P soap base. That's all that matters. Smooches!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Not Bad A'tall!

Well I've been slaving away in my studio aka my kitchen/dining room to fill this wholesale order, and I just realized something: This is a lot of damn work!!! I underestimate my own talents and the labor I put into my craft. I'm not complaining at all. I love it! I just never really put a value on what I do. Anyhoo, I made a couple of pie shells with the new mold I purchased last week, and while it is way smaller than I imagined (it's 3 inches, what was I expecting???), I think I'm going to have to market my A La Mode Pies totally different now which slightly disappoints me. A fix is still possible. I'm working on it. As an artist or professional or whatever it is you do, how much do you really value your skills? Well, here's a pic of the finished product, and all I have to say is this: "Not bad a'tall!"

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Mold-y Existence

I'm so excited that I got my first wholesale order, but I have no idea what I'm doing. I know I've probably cheated myself in the pricing of my merchandise, but this is great exposure for my business. This was a particularly large order for me. The client wants one of every bakery-style soap or candle that I sell, and I am a one-woman show, and I only had a limited supply of items. I openly admit that I had been buying my 3-in pie shells from an outside supplier, but not only does that compromise my whole philosophy of handmade, but it's expensive as hell buying these things from an outside source. To remedy that, I went on a little shopping spree the other day at one of my latest discoveries, Van Yulay. What an odd name, but Monica makes some of the best damn silicone molds out there on the market, and I've acquired quite a few since I've started dedicating myself to this venture. I probably have at least 20 molds if not more. Many of them are silicone, but the majority of them are made of polyurethene which is a more cost effective solution for the small business person like myself. I buy all my molds at Mold Making Handyman. I get all the molds I want and pay only $10 flat-rate shipping. But back to my purchase the other day. I contained myself and only purchased three molds from Monica this time. I finally bought a 3-inc pie shell mold for only $19.99. Very reasonable in my opinion. Next, I bought a small ice cream scoop. It was a little smaller than I anticipated. I'll have to try it with my A La Mode Pies to see if it's too small. I may end up having to use it with a new product I'm launching, but we'll see. Lastly, I bought a peanut butter cookie mold. I am dying to try these all out, so I'm gonna go make a few sample batches then check in with ya'll later. Peace!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

New Etsy Discovery

I'm convinced that Etsy should put me and probably a thousand other people on their payroll. This site is friggin amazing. If you're a small business person like me, you can find practically everything you need there. Okay, enough Etsy ass-kissing, let me tell you about my new find: It's called Alchemy. Whenever I hear or see the word alchemy, by the way, I always think of the Remede skincare line by Bliss Spa. Anyway, Alchemy is this cool tool that allows you to request custom items that you perhaps can't find at an Etsy shop or any other shop. You simply submit a request, and Etsy members actually get to bid on your request. You state what you're looking for (Today I saw a request for an armpit shaped like the state of New Jersey????) and how much you're willing to pay for it then watch the bids roll in-or not. I am starting to generate a little buzz with my little company, The Decadent Flame, and I was looking for someone who could make me a logo for biz cards and hang tags for a paltry $25.00, and I honestly was not expecting much of a response. Well, whadda ya know? I got over 19 bids in a 10 minute span. My head was spinning. Some of the bids came in on target, others were actually under my maximum price. A few were over (declined those right away.) After mulling over all the bids, I did finally choose one. The hardest part was telling all the others that I was not going to accept their bids. I don't like rejection, and I know it's a part of doing business, but I don't like it nonetheless. There were two sellers who were very gracious in their "defeat," and I want to give them some love: CustomCrosses and Butterfly Chic. Their shops were very well put together, and they were in my price range, but there was one in particular that stood out. Honestly, I think the fact that I was getting a super bargain for practically nothing was part of the hook. This shop offers custom logos for $100 and I'm only paying $30 for mine. Yeah, yeah, I did end up paying more, but I can't resist a bargain. Who's the winner? I'm not telling just yet. I gotta keep you coming back somehow. Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Big Reveal-Ashy SoapQuick

Well here we are on Tuesday, and I made my soap using the SoapQuick on Saturday, and while I'm not doubled over with joy, I 'm not disappointed either. This particular batch was a personal challenge because I was expecting the worst, yet it didn't totally tank. Notice the top of the soap log has an ashy appearance. That's called soda ash, and it's perfectly harmless. This can often happen when your soap comes in contact with the air while it's still in your mold saponifying. I'll cut that off and neaten it up. My one regret is I wished I used a little more fragrance and some color. This soap is totally colorless. It looks so blah. The soap is still kinda soft and it has a slight sting when I touch my tongue to it. This means my soap is not yet ready for use. I'm now "curing" it by letting it dry out and harden. I don't have a fancy dryer. What I'll do is put it on an unused rack from my oven and store it in my linen closet. I'll rotate the bars every other day so that it will cure evenly. Well, here it is. I'll keep you posted on the final results. Smooches!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Etsy Splurges Or Lack Thereof

I usually end the week with my roundup of what I found on Etsy, but this week-nada! I have really been in a funk creatively, and I have not been in the buying mood. I can't believe I said that! I think Daylight's Savings is messing with my mind. I particularly don't need an extra hour of sunlight. I am a creature of the night. If I could independently support myself with my crafts, I'd be up creating all night and sleeping all day.

I have not yet revealed the outcome of the SoapQuick project because I'm a little nervous, and I am feverishly trying to come up with some new products. Easter is around the corner, and I am in the lab cooking up something that I hope will turn out half-way decent. I hope to make that reveal by the middle of the week.

Speaking of Etsy, I did make my bi-weekly purchase from Noel Delights. I have not yet received my earrings and necklace from Loose Wire Studios. I convoed her, and she's been ill, so I'll give it another week. My gripe is, as a business person, if you know you are having some difficulties fulfilling an order, wouldn't you contact your client personally before they contact you? I do not know the extent of her illness, but I'm just saying......

SoapQuick-Part Deux

Okay, I'm gonna try my luck with the SoapQuick again. If you remember, I bought this from Mission Peak Soaps, and the first time I tried this, it was a total and utter disaster. I was pissed on a number of levels: One, I ruined a batch of seemingly good soaping oils. Two, I wasted some lye which for some reason is a precious commodity to me. And third, I was just pressed for the soap to turn out wonderfully, but of course, it didn't. Anyway, I decided to give it another try after I bought this fascinating read from Old Crone's Bewitching Bath Soap. The author, Amy, actually says that you don't have to measure the temperature of your oils and lye and that you can pour your lye directly into your oils once the lye has completely dissolved in the water. I am the world's biggest skeptic, so I actually contacted Miss Amy, and she personally confirmed it. No more thermometers!!!! Yes! That was probably my biggest challenge-getting the lye mixture and the oils within a few degrees of one another. I've probably ruined so many batches because of this. Moving on, this time I followed the recommended recipe for the SoapQuick. The recipe is for a 4 lb batch of soap and requires:

  • 64 oz of SoapQuick
  • 19 oz of water
  • 9.2 oz of lye

What I did was weigh out the oils in my large, plastic measuring cup. I didn't actually think it would all fit, but it did. After I weighed the oils, I poured them into my huge bowl that I've designated as my soap-making bowl. Next, I poured the lye mixture directly into the oils. Mind you, the oils are completely liquid. That's the glory of using the SoapQuick. There are no hard oils to melt. Even if I were using the traditional soaping method, I could still pour the lye mixture directly onto the solid oils without having to melt them completely. According to Old Crone's book, I could use my stick blender to help melt and mix everything. After blending the oils and lye in a few short bursts, I could see that my "soap" is starting to take shape. I've reached a slight trace at this point, and I've now added my fragrance oil (about 2 oz of Chocolate Truffle.) I'm not adding any color to the soap this time because my finished soap will darken over time due to the vanilla content. I also stopped using my stick blender at this point as once you've added your FO, you should only stir with your wooden spoon. Using the blender could accelerate trace in your soap and thicken it to the point where it's not pourable. You'd actually have to scoop it out. I've had this happen several times, and the soap turned out fine, it was just a damn mess trying to scoop it out of the bowl into the mold.

Speaking of molds, I bought a new one from my friend Julie over at Candles and Woodcrafts. I figured it was time I invested in a quality, wooden soap mold, and Julie's got a vast selection. I bought a pegged, wooden mold that would hold precisely 4 lbs of soap. I particularly like the pegged molds because the sides come completely off, and it is a bitch trying to line a soap mold-at least for me anyway. I lined the mold using freezer paper with the shiny side up. The only problem I had with the mold was getting the pegs in the holes after I lined the mold. I did leave a few out. Bad idea because I had a few leaks after I poured my mixture. With the soap in the mold, I covered the top with plastic wrap, wrapped a towel around it, then placed the wooden top over that. I did not want to set the top directly on the mold because it would have smushed down in my soap, and I wasn't about to have that!

I couldn't resist peaking at my soap after a few hours. One, I'm forever impatient, and two, I wanted to make sure I reached the gel phase which is the chemical process of your lye and oil mixture actually turning into soap. Yeah, I've reached the gel phase, and later, I'll unveil the finished product!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

I'm still suffering from a creative block. So blocked in fact, that I decided to indulge in a few guilty pleasures, so here they are in no particular order:
  1. VH1 Classic-I just love Pop Up Video. It's interesting to find out the story behind the video.
  2. Harlequin and Silhouette Romance Novels. This sh*t never happens in real life.
  3. Infomercials. I love seeing who's the latest cash-strapped celebrity who'll plug just about anything for a buck or some free publo.
  4. Obituaries. Some are fascinating. Some make you feel like such a loser. Others make you say "What a loser."
  5. Surfing some of my fave gossip sites like Bossip, Concrete Loop, and Media Takeout. The readers' posts are so funny, that I need to wear a Poise Pad.
I could go on forever, but I need to head over to these gossip sites to get my laugh on. What's your favorite guilty pleasure???

Shameless plug alert! Shameless plug alert! Shameless plug alert!

I did post some new stuff over at The Decadent Flame.

Cupcake Duos

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

They Don't Call It Hump Day For Nothin!!!!

So here I am on a dead Wednesday night, and Pepper is breathing her Fancy Feast cat breath in my face (not a nice smell by the way). This is not a good week. I've started a new job that I'm having trouble adjusting to, and I have hit a serious creative block. This is so unlike me. My mind is usually flooded with ideas. They don't always pan out, but the fact that I have an idea is worthy enough. I'd really like to know how do you get over the creative hump? What inspires you when your mind is a total blank? I'll send the first 3 inspiring replies one of these soaps of your choice. Choose either mint or coconut with chocolate drizzle.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Flaming Special Monday!!!!

If today is Monday, then it must be time for the Flaming Special over at The Decadent Flame. This week's special is all about the shortcake. Buy any candle at The Decadent Flame and get a shortcake candle for free. You pick the scent: strawberry, blueberry, or bananaberry.

Spring is fast around the corner, and I'm whipping up some new goodies. Check my Etsy store every Saturday for new additions. Just added this week: shortcake and orange bowl candles-the perfect, quirky, unexpected gift for any Easter basket or place setting.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Etsy Splurges Saturday

It's Saturday, and I have not splurged yet. I am combing the hundreds of Etsy stores for something inspiring that I want to buy but right now I'm feeling "Do I really want that?" Do you ever feel like that? You see something really cute, and you say "Oh, that is really darling, but do I really want or need that for that matter?" Anyway, let's get to the good stuff. I have not yet received my earrings and necklace from loosewirestudio. I think it may be time for a convo. It's been a week today. Sorry, sister, I'm not trying to put you on blast, I'm just anxious, that's all. I'm sure it will arrive shortly.

I have, however, received my Lemon Bars from Noel Delights. Let me tell you: Christie does not dissapoint!!!! I swear I'm going to gain 20 pounds by summer if I keep buying her stuff, but I'm hooked! When my package arrived, it was carefully packaged, on ice, nonetheless. Of course I tore into everything, to get to the goods. Imagine my pure delight when I opened the container and found 6 ample sized squares of lemon-y goodness. Each one is drizzled in white chocolate and calling me: "Patrice, eat me." Yes, as the picture will show, there are only 5 bars left. These bars pack a powerful tart/sweet punch. They are so decadent that a few bites will really satisfy you, but if you're a pig like me, then you'll eat the whole bar. No, Christie is not on my payroll (although I wish I could afford to). I just love baked goods, and she is the bomb!!!